Greetings from Bali! We had a wonderful yoga retreat in the island of the gods, led by my longtime teacher Erika Trice.
Here is a 5 min. slideshow with highlights from this trip, set to the hypnotic gamelan music we heard everywhere. For more coverage, check out this longer video slideshow: vimeo.com/91255888 . The individual photos can be viewed or downloaded here on Flickr: flickr.com/photos/fabola/sets/72157643604358084/ (browse the full photo archive here: flickr.com/photos/fabola/sets/72157643557713263/ ).
The trip was organized by International Yoga, in partnership with the Bali Institute. We stayed at a lovely resort in the rice terraces near Ubud, where a friendly staff provided a great service with gamelan, incense and sweet fruits. We found a healthy balance between yoga and cultural explorations during our weeklong visit (March 27-April 3, 2014). We usually started and ended each day with an energizing yoga session -- and ventured off in the island during the afternoons and evenings.
On day 1, I met with the master mask maker I.B Anom, who introduced me to some of the special powers of his art. With the help of my driver Pinda, we found a nice miniature Garuda for our art project — and went off on a chase for Ooga-Oogas, giant demon figures which each village is building to fend off evil spirits for the upcoming New Year. On day 2, we went into nearby Ubud to visit the inspiring Neka art museum and watch a mesmerizing Legong dance performance. On day 3, we joined a cleansing ceremony to purify holy objects with ocean water — thousands of villages across the island made the same trip to the beach and we were honored to be part of this ritual. We then visited a master puppet maker, who brought a few of his characters to life for us and showed us around his family compound. And we ended the day with a hypnotic performance of Kecak -- a ‘choir’ of men sat in a circle to re-enact the Hindu Ramanya epic with a spellbinding chant. On day 4, I met the talented young mask maker I.B. Anom Suryawan. We connected on many levels, and he is excited to collaborate on our Balinese Cuckoo Clock project: I now feel like I have a new friend in Bali. We then joined celebrations for the Balinese New Year, when every village in the island parades 'ogoh-ogoh', large demonic statues symbolizing malevolent spirits that need to be exorcised. It was really fun to meet our neighbors in the small village of Bindu, who made us feel part of their community. On day 5, the entire island shut down to observe Nyepi, the Day of Silence, to reflect and meditate: no flights in or out of Bali, nobody in the streets, no electricity; we stayed in our hotel and I did my part by not taking any photos. On day 6, we went to Tirta Empul, where Balinese purify in the holy spring waters, then visited the Prince of Paliatan to discuss the future of Bali. On day 7, we went to the amazing Royal Pitahama for an afternoon by the river and a divine yoga session in this enchanted spot.
Overall, this was an amazing experience for me, at all levels: physical, cultural and spiritual. and I will miss this special place -- but I now have some new friends I hope to stay in touch with. Throughout this trip, I’ve been moved by the kindness of our hosts, who are incredibly friendly with strangers like us: I hope we can bring some of that goodwill home with us, our western world could use more of that communal spirit and generosity, which seems especially strong here at the local level. We have much to learn from the Balinese, to whom I say: Suksuma — thank you!
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